They leave town the next day to continue their journey. After a day of travel, John finds Papi has gone through a week’s rations. John says to Papi “You have got to slow down.” John then says to Nasha “Nasha, I hate to say this, but you’re going to need to go hunting soon.”
Nasha looks at Papi and says “Really!” she grabs her bow and some traps and heads into the woods.
They travel a few more days along a forest trail when John notices Nasha falling behind. John says to Nasha “Are you alright?”
Nasha says “I’m…fine.”
John looks at Nasha’s tail and sees that it looks paler than normal and that she is trying to keep a section off the ground as much as possible. John says to Nasha “Nasha?”
Nasha says “I’m fine!”
John says “No you are not!” He then yells at Kenta “Kenta, grab her and hold her back against the tree.” Nasha tries to fight Kenta but is quickly overpowered.
Kenta says “What’s wrong John?” John bends down and starts to roll Nasha’s tail over. He finds it easier to do when Nasha’s body naturally wants to keep her spine from being twisted. He feels Nasha's skin slide as he tries to roll her tail and says to Nasha “You’re shedding, aren’t you. Why didn’t you tell us?”
Nasha nodes saying “It can take days for my kind to shed even with help. We tend to not move during that time until we have fully shed our skin.” Nasha flitches when John reaches the section she has been trying to hold up. John sees why when he rolls it over. Under the loose skin is a large friction burn with a scab on her belly scales that looks like it may even be infected.
Kenta lets Nasha go and walks over to look at the wound more closely. Nasha slides down to an almost sitting height resting her back against the tree almost too weak to move. John says to Kenta “I need a knife.”
Kenta says “Why?”
John says “I want to take a better look at it.” Kenta gives him one of Nasha’s daggers and John carefully cuts the dead skin open over the wound. John says to Kenta after looking at the wound more closely “Do you know of any plants that could help?”
Kenta says “Yes.”
John says “Good, we are going to need some.”
John and Kenta begin looking for the plants. Papi has been following them, though John had hoped she would have stayed with Nasha.
John comes across a strange colony of small creatures in his search. They are palm-size blobs of ooze. They have what looks like two colored patches that face forward with a single antenna sticking up from the top middle of the main mass. John calls Kenta over saying “Kenta, Have you ever seen these before?”
Kenta says “Now is not the time to be looking at wildlife.”
Papi joins John to look at the creatures. Papi gets low to look at them when one approaches Papi’s knee. The ooze moves up to Papi and uses its antenna to feel Papi’s knee. The ooze finds a scabbed over scrape on Papi’s knee, then moves to cover it. John reaches for the ooze to pull it off of Papi when he sees the scab float away from Papi’s skin a dissolve in the ooze’s body. John checks his arms and finds a scabbed over cut. He picks up the ooze and puts it on top of the cut and then watches it closely. The ooze spins in place then the patches move down. He feels the scab soften then lift off his skin and then dissolve.
John sets the ooze aside then yells at Kenta as he takes off his cloak “Kenta, grab as many as you can!” He starts garbing as many as he can and uses his cloak as a makeshift bag. The oozes start to flee the moment John and Kenta start trying to round them up. John and Kenta are only able to grab a few before the other oozes escape.
Kenta says to John as he rushes back to Nasha “What are you going to do with those things.” John doesn’t say a word as he is fighting to keep the oozes contained.
John drops the cloak next to Nasha when they get back to her. The oozes start to flee when the cloak is released. John grabs one before it escapes and places it on top of Nasha’s wound. Kenta says to John “What are you doing?” John silences her and just watches the ooze.
The ooze starts to spin in place but stops halfway. It then releases a spritz in the air. The ooze then moves around the scab and bumps up against Nasha’s shedding. It releases another spritz in the air after testing the skin. It moves around some more and it spritzes each time it touches Nasha’s shedding.
John and Kenta hear the bushes move and the oozes come back and bump up to Nasha’s side. They test the skin then spritz in the air. They start trying to climb Nasha, but the shedding gives and tears. Nasha flinches at the tearing. John rushes to her asking “Nasha, are you alright?”
Nasha says with slight pain “Not all the skin is loose and free.”
John looks back at the piece of shedding that pulled away and finds the oozes trying to absorb the piece of skin. Though John thinks there are more of them now. Some pull away from the piece and go back to Nasha trying to get another piece to come free. Then John sees other oozes come from the brush and bump up to Nasha, each time releasing a spritz in the air.
Some of the oozes start to leave after finishing off the first piece. They are so full of pieces of skin to the point that they look like shaken snow globes. But two or more come rushing out of the brush as soon as one leaves, some even coming up to the other side of Nasha’s tail.
John watches as more and more oozes come, to the point that there could be close to a hundred of them. He then smells a sickly sweet smell in the air.
John suddenly realizes what the smell is and says to Kenta “pheromones, they are communicating by pheromones.”
John watches them work. John then says to Nasha “Lift your tail.”
Nasha looks weak but says “They are squeezing under it.” John looks and sees one pop up from under Nasha’s tail. Nasha then starts laughing.
John says to Nasha “are you all right?”
Nasha says “The tip of my tail! It’s sensitive!” John looks towards the end of Nasha’s tail and sees the oozes trying to climb on it to get to the tip. John runs down to the end of her tail and grabs the loose skin. He pulls the dead skin completely off the end of Nasha’s tail quickly in one swift motion. He holds it for a second then puts it in his pocket.
Then without warning, all the oozes start making their way to the end of Nasha’s tail. John looks at it and sees that a few oozes have climbed on top of her tail and are starting to move up. The other oozes are following behind forming a blanket. John sees as the wave of oozes makes its way up Nasha's tail and that a few of them behind the main group stop for a moment. Then suddenly a parasite appears in the ooze. The parasite is spat out the back after a moment, but it lands on another ooze and absorbs into it. The parasite goes through this process several times before finally starting to dissolve. Soon oozes break off from the front after collecting enough dead skin and slide down the side of Nasha’s tail. The oozes pull some of the losses down with them as they come down, while some of the skin falls off after a moment of the blanket of oozes passing by.
John looks to the wound and sees the one lone ooze is still moving back and forth over the scabbed wound. It then suddenly turns and starts heading up to Nasha’s upper body just before the wave reaches it. The oozes start piling on top of the scabbed. John can barely see the scabbed through the pile. But soon he sees pieces starting to come off. They continue to sit there until full then move away only to be replaced immediately afterward.
John says to Kenta “get the bandages ready” as he watches the oozes thin the scabbed down. Soon the oozes have cleared the scabbed off. But John can see the wound underneath looks infected. But a moment later an ooze becomes cloudy with pus. John and Kenta watch as the oozes drain the puss from the wound. John readies himself to fight the oozes away from the wound when they start drawing blood. But then one pulls away when it sucks in some blood and soon the others pull away also. John yells to Kenta “NOW!” and they quickly cover the wound and start to wrap it up. John holds the bandage while Kenta wraps. Kenta tosses any dead skin way that she finds and the oozes rush to get to it.
John looks Nasha over after they finish wrapping and sees that the oozes have completely cleaned Nasha’s tail of every piece of dead skin.
Kenta starts batting at her legs and even kicks her back legs saying “Get off.” John sees the oozes trying to climb her legs.
John says to Kenta “They are probably still hungry and are just looking for food.”
Kenta says “Well they won’t find any on me” as she grabs one starting to crawl on her upper back.
Papi runs by with some of the oozes all over her. She even tries flapping her arms to get them off of her.
John sits back and watches the scene unfold before him trying not to laugh. Then he feels an ooze start climbing up the inside of his pants leg.
John looks at the remaining oozes once he has managed to keep them off of him. He sees several oozes pair up and comes together for a moment then they pull apart with three or smaller oozes coming out. But soon the oozes start leaving the area.
John finds all but one ooze leaves. One stays and seems to be looking at the bandage. John picks it up and holds it in his palm as he studies it. He thinks it’s the same one he used to test them and also the one he put on Nasha. It seems to not be scared anymore and is calm and even relaxed. John even starts petting it on top and it seems to like being petted. John looks at the others and says “it seems we’ve picked up another traveler.”
John checks on Nasha “How you doing?”
Nasha says “cold…need warmth.”
John feels Nasha’s skin and finds that it’s the same temperature as around them. He looks at Nasha and can sense she is acting like she’s trying to run a fever.